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The Dreadful Ten: Ken’s Horror Blu-ray Wishlist for 2015!

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As a cinema collector, the seemingly booming business of specialty Blu-ray distributors has been an especially wonderful landscape to watch grow. Over the course of only a few years, hard-to-find titles from throughout horror history have found their way to new media releases, and often times looking better than ever. To that point, it’s a costly endeavor to keep up with the excellent titles offered by the likes of Scream Factory, Grindhouse Releasing, Synapse Films, Blue Underground, The Criterion Collection and Twilight Time, but worthwhile once you’ve seen their work in action.

But, of course, rights issues, budgetary constraints and an endlessly growing home video market makes it difficult for many of these distributors to release everything fans call for. Top onto that the complications in finding and digitally restoring footage of select titles, especially for collector’s editions that fans crave, and the specialty distribution world can be a much more difficult place to navigate than fans might think. Nevertheless, as a genre fan, we can hope to see our favorite fright flicks one day hit high definition, thus allowing us to see these genre titles in a legitimately new light.

Therefore, in my various compulsions, this writer has assembled his top ten most desired horror titles for a Blu-ray upgrade in the coming year, despite the obstacles reality may throw in their way. Obviously, in compiling this list, that does not mean there are plans to bring any of these films to high definition in the coming year, or that I might not be able to find them on Blu-ray in foreign marketplaces. But all of these fright films are genuine cult classics, and deserve to see a U.S. release just as much as the next random release from a studio’s archive.

10. WAXWORK / WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME

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A duo of fiendishly fun horror movies from Anthony Hickox, the WAXWORK films are ones I discovered from late night cable viewings, yet soon afterwards became minor cinematic obsessions. Between the imaginative concept, the twists and turns, the impressive SFX and the odd aura that seeps through every frame of both films, WAXWORK and its sequel have earned their cult classic status over the past 20 years the hard way. But while the films have been some of the most frequently requested by horror fans, WAXWORK and WAXWORK II have also had some rather large problems making their way to Blu-ray, namely a studio that rarely licenses out to specialty distributors and a slew of missing gore footage cut to make an R-rating. Hopefully, the studio in question will finally come to their senses and release a WAXWORK double feature that patient fans deserve, even if it’s at the risk of a barebones disc. After all, any film series featuring both Dana Ashbrook and Bruce Campbell is worth upgrading to 1080p.

9. TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE

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Considered by many to be the true successor to the CREEPSHOW franchise, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE is one of the most consistent and outright scary anthology films of all time. Featuring three solid segments and even an exceptional wrap-around, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE excels beyond the modest expectations of its television origins and delivers scare fare that is humorous, gruesome and even heartbreaking at times. With an all-star cast, spectacular special effects and a fan-base that has grown exponentially after the film was highly promoted on Netflix last year, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE is one high-definition wait that gets more difficult by the day.

8. MULHOLLAND DRIVE

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With David Lynch’s work slowly but surely entering the realm of high definition (with 2014 seeing WILD AT HEART, TWIN PEAKS and ERASERHEAD all making the jump), and much of his work available on Blu-ray in Europe, this writer is always more optimistic on the chances of seeing this film hit Blu-ray in 2015. But with MULHOLLAND DRIVE being one of Lynch’s more popular late-career titles, the film may have incidentally been put in a compromising position, as it is likely desired by multiple specialty distributors and could be the anchoring film for a potential Lynch Box Set. Nevertheless, MULHOLLAND DRIVE is one of Lynch’s most mind-bending and occasionally terrifying works, and its Club Silencio sequence practically cries out to be seen in the highest quality possible. This writer knows he is not alone in this sentiment, so with fingers crossed, let’s hope that MULHOLLAND DRIVE is Lynch’s next flick to hit Region A Blu-ray.

7. BUBBA HO-TEP

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One of horror’s most celebrated contemporary cult classics, it’s a shame that BUBBA HO-TEP is not yet available in high definition. Boasting excellent make-up and creature SFX, BUBBA HO-TEP is one of the few films that can simultaneously be laugh-out-loud hilarious and breathtakingly scary. Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis make for two of the most memorable protagonists in horror history, while Don Coscarelli’s direction has rarely been leaner and stronger than when faced with Joe Lansdale’s brilliant concept. BUBBA HO-TEP is the kind of fright flick that truly deserves to make its way to Blu-ray, and would be an awesome fit for the off-beat Scream Factory roster, which previously brought Coscarelli’s PHANTASM 2 to high definition as well.

6. INNOCENT BLOOD

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While AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON has been given special Blu-ray editions time and time again (as recently as October 2014), Landis’ other authentically horror feature has yet to even find its way onto the format once. Granted, INNOCENT BLOOD is the true definition of a cult classic, and has yet to really find the revisionist love that it deserves, but that doesn’t mean the film wouldn’t make for stunningly beautiful Blu-ray. Effects-heavy and with a superb script, the film might be a financial risk for any specialty distributor, but for those who already have WEREWOLF IN LONDON and TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE on Blu, a high-def INNOCENT BLOOD would make for the perfect Landis horror collectors item.

5. THE HITCHER (1986)

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You know there is something wrong with the state of horror when the awful 2007 Platinum Dunes remake of THE HITCHER is available on Blu-ray all over the world while the 1986 original is nowhere to be seen. To be fair, neither are on Blu-ray stateside, but considering the original is a bona fide genre classic, the film feels long overdue for a high definition transfer. THE HITCHER (1986) features some of the strongest performances from both Rutger Hauer and C. Thomas Howell, and its chase sequences are nothing short of astonishing. But above all, THE HITCHER (1986) is a seriously scary flick, and one ripe for rediscovery by younger generations. Considering THE HITCHER was a Columbia release, perhaps the Sony-friendly Twilight Time might eventually bring John Ryder and company to Blu-ray, but so far, all has been quiet on that front.

4. THE COMPANY OF WOLVES

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A film I had the pleasure of seeing recently courtesy of the Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers and FANGO’s own Michael Gingold, Neil Jordan’s haunting fantasy film is one of the most visually elegant horror productions ever made. And while other countries have wised up and added the film to their Blu-ray shelves, the film still remains to be seen in high definition stateside. Despite its amazing cinematography, incredible practical SFX and immersive production design, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES might be simply too obscure to have warranted its U.S. Blu release just yet. However, the film holds up incredibly well, and the film has all the elements that would make it a sought-after title for  a specialty distributor like Scream Factory or even possibly Criterion. Fingers crossed that with a pre-existing high-def transfer overseas, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES will find a U.S. Blu home sooner rather than later.

3. PHANTASM

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With the number of franchise box sets hitting over the past several years, bringing the entire runs of HALLOWEEN, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, SAW and LEPRECHAUN conveniently to collectors, the PHANTASM franchise has been a glaring omission. In fact, outside of its beloved and bonkers sequel, no PHANTASM film has made its way onto a high-def format. One reason may be Don Coscarelli’s control of the property, including his rights over the original films release as opposed to the studio-owned PHANTASM II, but while a PHANTASM Blu would undoubtedly sell well, its delay is more likely behind sound logic. With PHANTASM V: RAVAGER likely being the series closer and aiming for a Summer 2015 release, there’s a good chance PHANTASM will make its way to Blu-ray alongside RAVAGER in a neat box set around Christmas time. But that’s merely speculation, and with so little known about RAVAGER as it is, there’s an equally good chance it may still be a long time before we see Phantasm in 1080p.

2. THE DEVILS

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While the film has never seen a fully uncut U.S. release, there has been heat behind the recent campaign to “Free THE DEVILS” with the hopes that Warner Brothers may choose Ken Russell’s controversial director’s cut if and when the film makes its high definition debut. With nearly half a century having passed since the films initial release, THE DEVILS is no doubt still a much debated film for the Warner Brothers Archive. After all, Warner Brothers knows the film could be a financial success, considering the many sold-out revival screenings and the films reputation among the genre crowd, yet they still know the power the film could have as an uncut general release. In any case, there’s little doubt that one day the full, uncut version of THE DEVILS will be available, and likely on a premium, high-def format, but whether or not Warner is willing to wait until the film’s 45th or 50th anniversary is a different story. Hopefully, Warner Brothers will realize that the time is now to reap the rewards for a DEVILS Blu-ray, while the demand is at the highest it has been in years.

1. TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

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With the release of last year’s now-incorrectly titled TWIN PEAKS: THE ENTIRE MYSTERY on Blu-ray, the floodgates have seemingly opened for many series to make their way to Blu-ray in their entirety. And while the daunting and costly task of transferring hours upon hours of material to high definition is one many studios prefer to skip, there’s few shows more deserving of a Blu rerelease than TALES FROM THE CRYPT. With excellent special effects, an all-star cast and contributions from some of the genre’s top talents, TALES FROM THE CRYPT is especially fit for a high definition treatment and a definitive home video set. And if Paramount can put the effort into bringing FIRE WALK WITH ME to their TWIN PEAKS box set, perhaps HBO might be able to garnish a TALES FROM THE CRYPT box set with the likes of DEMON KNIGHT, BORDELLO OF BLOOD and RITUAL to truly offer a complete TALES collection. Of course, this is all wishful thinking, but a horror fan can dream, can’t they?

And now, some honorable mentions that almost made this week’s Dreadful Ten:

2015 Blu-ray Shoe-ins: Criterion’s THE BROOD and Synapse Films’ SUSPIRIA

With Criterion’s 2015 teaser artwork virtually verifying that David Cronenberg’s THE BROOD will hit Blu-ray this year (and rumored to be a 4K transfer), that high definition release comes in as the second most anticipated upcoming disc, right behind Synapse’s 4K restoration of Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA, which is rumored to be aiming for release this fall. No official release dates have been offered for either, but stay tuned, fright fans.

Magnet Misses: MURDER PARTY and TIMECRIMES

While Magnet Releasing has provided many of their top features with great Blu-ray releases, there are a few that unfortunately never made their way onto the format. Considering Jeremy Saulnier and Nacho Vigalondo have each made their mark on the genre landscape in a big way since these initial releases, perhaps Magnet might reconsider giving the likes of MURDER PARTY and TIMECRIMES a long-awaited Blu-ray bow?

Unreleased in the USA: ANGST and THE BIRTHDAY

With Scream Factory’s release of THE SQUAD and Chainsaw Nominee THE BATTERY last year, the doors have officially opened for specialty distributors to bring otherwise unreleased titles to a stateside audience. And while the odds are low, perhaps Grindhouse Releasing may find it fruitful to bring the Gasper Noe-endorsed ANGST to the U.S. for the first time? Or might we see a release for GRAND PIANO director Eugenio Mira’s internationally embraced THE BIRTHDAY from the likes of Scream Factory? We likely won’t, but hopefully these foreign gems won’t go unseen in the U.S. much longer.

Horror Underdogs: SOCIETY, STRANGELAND, MAY and FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2

While highly unlikely to see a U.S. Blu-ray release in the coming calendar year due to the economics of the business, this writer is also pulling to see the likes of Brian Yuzna’s SOCIETY, Dee Snider’s STRANGELAND, Lucky McKee’s MAY and Tommy Lee Wallace’s FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 make their way to a stateside high-def release this year as well, although admittedly with less urgency than the titles listed above.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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